Praise for Penske after Scott McLaughlin dominates Barber IndyCar race: “So proud of the execution, the way that the team stuck together”

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment - Chris Owens
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Scott McLaughlin converted his pole position at Barber Motorsports Park into a commanding victory, despite a late caution and an agressive strategy choice by his team. Looking back on the race, the Penske-driver was proud of how his team executed the race and how they stuck together.

“We did what we thought we could do. It was execution. Like, probably one of the most I guess you could say so proud of the execution, the way that the team, particularly on the three cars, stuck together. We just kind of kept executing. That’s our word for the rest of the year. Keep knocking ’em out. Points are points. Points are imaginary things. You just, like, get them. It’s a reward at the end of the race.

“It’s about executing. The higher you finish, the more points you get. Ultimately it’s a bonus at the end of the season. We’re here to just take it race by race and see what happens towards the end.”

Coming off a tumultuous week, the weekend couldn’t have gone any better. McLaughlin was in control the entire race, of course prompting some feelings of redemption after the double DSQ from the St. Petersburg event.

“Look, there was never a lack of belief there. I’m more proud of just the people aspect of it, the way we just stuck together. We took the penalty, as we said at the start of the week. It was black and white. You move on.

“We move forward together as a team race by race,” McLaughlin added. “We’ll just keep working hard to make sure that we win as much as we can to put ourselves in the fight come September. That’s what I’m super proud of, just the execution.

“Yeah, we knew we had a fast car. We knew we were going to be there. There was a bit of confidence walking into the racetrack this weekend, even with myself. Just love this place. Probably my favorite road course in America. Just really loved it.”

When Arrow McLaren failed to fasten Alexander Rossi’s left rear tyre, Penske was prompted to execute their second stop, dropping McLaughlin and teammate Will Power back into the pack, requiring them to make up places.

After Sting Ray Robb planted his A.J. Foyt-entry in the turn 1 tyre barriers and the caution came out for the third time, McLaughlin stayed out and had to grind for a gap to Álex Palou, who was on the more conservative fuel saving strategy. The Kiwi executed this plan flawlessly, and after his third stop he came out in first, never to look back.

“I knew that we were probably on the back foot, then got a somewhat lucky yellow,” McLaughlin explained. “Stingray I think put it in the fence. That was a way of us getting back to the point where these other guys had to take the fuel and hope they made the fuel.

“I knew I had the pace. If I got out in front, nailed some laps, we might be able to come out in third and fourth. We come out in the lead. I was like, This is good.

“You just know. By now I know the way the race falls. It’s just experience, man. I feel like in my fourth year I really understand it.”

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment – Chris Jones

When both front-running Penske’s (Josef Newgarden was way back in the field) were fighting to get back to the front after their second stop, McLaughlin and Power traded places a few times, with the Ozzy eventually losing out to his teammate.

“I think we raced each other as hard as we normally do,” McLaughlin said of the battle. “We were smart about it. I think we had big picture.

“At the end of the day, like I said before, I knew the pass with Will, that battle with Will when we were 20th or something, that was important for being positioned right if it all came our way like it did in the end. It was effectively for the race win, could you say.”

“We always race fairly. It’s hard. He probably cut me a little bit of slack. He still tried pretty hard. Yeah, I always enjoy racing Will. A lot of transparency there between the two of us, even the start of the race, for us to get through 1-2. Ultimately him being in second was great for me. It’s just working together, which is really nice.”

A little later in the race, when McLaughlin was trying to create the gap to Palou, one of the many art installations around the track, Georgina the mannequin, came loose from the bridge and landed next to the track. Luckily for McLauglin no caution was called, but he wasn’t pleased with the situation.

“I was a little mad. Then I realized that someone else had hit the fence. That wasn’t what the yellow was for.

“I love the artistic stuff, but it probably doesn’t need to be above the track to cause a yellow like that. It’s probably what will change next year maybe. I don’t know.

“I do love that part of this. It’s unique. It’s just a fun track. Yeah, if I lost to that, to a lady that fell off… I won’t say anymore. It was a mannequin. It wasn’t a real person.”

After the race, the conversation kept circling back to the push-to-pass situation of St. Petersburg, although the fans seemed to have moved on, McLaughlin noticed.

“Look, the fans are passionate. We love them. If you’re getting booed, that’s a good thing. They’re passionate. They love the sport. If you’re getting cheered, it’s the same thing. I’ve always looked at it sort of two ways.

“You don’t want to be a guy they don’t like. It doesn’t affect the way I’m racing. I just hope that hopefully I race with a lot of integrity, honesty. What happened and transpired last week was just a mistake. It’s a human game, as well.

“I’ve always had a tremendous amount of support here in America. I’ve always been grateful for that. Hopefully we can win a few people back. But certainly a lot of the people that say a lot of crap online, on social media, they’re probably the people that will come shake your hand and say, Good job. It’s tit for tat. It’s part of it. That’s part of being in the spotlight as well.”

And he added that the same holds true for his fellow competitors.

“I had a number of people text me last night congratulations, great lap. I feel like it’s been pretty nice overall. We’re all competitors. Obviously everyone had their emotions at the time. It was pretty raw initially.

“I think it’s been pretty nice and everyone has been really, really cool. Just press on, business as usual. I can’t control their emotions. It’s up to them.”